After weeks of being the only NBA team without a Head Coach, the Lakers finally decided to hire one. Their decision? Ex-Laker/Showtime player Byron Scott. The hiring of Scott did not come as much of a surprise to anybody around the league. He was the only candidate to be interviewed more than once. Most fans seem to be very pleased with this hire. Byron knows what it means to “Be a Laker”. Whatever that means. Based on where the Lakers are right now, hiring Byron Scott was one of the worst things they could have done.
The Los Angeles Lakers finally have a basketball coach. The wild coaching “search” started with the Lakers saying that they were going to cast a wide net and go over all of their options. That was a good sign. They were going to look for a coach who was already established as a good coach, an established European wizard of a coach, or a young coach who could potentially become the next Popovich or Carlisle, right?
No. The search went from reviewing all options to only reviewing people with prior NBA head coaching experience to hiring only reviewing candidates who had a connection to the Lakers. David Blatt, Quin Snyder, Ettore Messina, Kevin Ollie (possibly not the greatest option, anyways)? Goodbye. Any hot shot assistant coach who could blossom into a solid coach? Not happening.
The last two times the Lakers had a coaching search, things did not go as planned. The Mike Brown experiment failed. He was fired five games into his second season. While pursuing Brown’s in-season replacement, the Lakers were hell-bent on bringing in a coach who knew all about “Showtime” and winning championships. Initially, it appeared as if Phil Jackson would be coming back (Huzzah!).
Instead, they brought in Mike D’Antoni. The Lakers could have kept it in house and brought in Steve Clifford, one of the assistants at the time, would have been a good option. Or they could have hired a coach who was somewhat familiar with the current roster, such as Jackson. But, they pooped the bed and hired a coach who did not fit the roster at all. They brought in a coach who had won on average 30.25 games in his four seasons prior. However, he was a big name and the Lakers assumed they would get a beautiful offense and outscore the entire the NBA. Instead they had a coach who didn’t know how to use one of the most skilled big men in the NBA: Pau Gasol.
As an aside, the Lakers did not want to take a chance on a coach like Clifford. This past season with the Bobcats, Clifford received 127 votes for Coach of the Year. He lead a consistently awful team to the playoffs. He could have been a perfect fit for a Laker team that was not buying into the D’Antoni system. However, Clifford ended up in Charlotte, and they are in great shape at the moment. The ridiculous “Laker Way” made hiring a budding superstar of a coach such as Steve Clifford impossible.
From the outside looking in, it appears as if the Lakers had their mind made up about Byron Scott this entire time. Why did it take them so long to finally make it official? I think that if they were serious about hiring anybody else, they would have been scouring through every nook and cranny to find a great candidate. Instead, it was Byron Scott vs. Byron Scott in battle of retread NBA coaches. I think that they wanted to take their time with the hiring process.
The last two coaches they hired did not pan out at all. They both seemed like rushed head-scatchers, even in hindsight they don’t make much sense. I think that the Lakers wanted to give the impression that they were deep in though while making this decision.
Take a look at this current Lakers roster. It’s almost laughable how bad this team is. It’s a roster filled with a bunch of one and two year deals. And Carlos Boozer. This team is not contending for a championship this season. In fact, this team is not contending for a championship until Kobe’s massive contract comes off the books after next season. Byron Scott will not make this team better. Last year, Mike D’Antoni aka, “The Master of Getting the Most Out of Mediocre Talent”, could only muster 27 wins.
From a pure talent standpoint, this team may or may not be worse. A lot of it will depend on how much Kobe has left in the tank. If Kobe ends up going BLACK MAMBA all season, this team might actually be decent. What are the odds of that happening, though?
These next two seasons are what some would call “Lost”. The Lakers are playing in a conference that just witnessed a team win 48 games and NOT make the playoffs. Two seasons ago, the Lakers had a healthy Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, AND Dwight Howard. That team barely snuck into the playoffs. This current roster is a lot worse than the 2012 team.
This roster is made up of Kobe Bryant (coming off of two major injuries), a bunch of role players, and Carlos Boozer. The Western Conference is really good. Getting into the playoffs in the West is not easy. Making it to the NBA Finals out of the West is even harder. It should take about 50 wins for a team to just get the 8 seed this year. Is Byron Scott going to guide this team win 23 more games than they won last year? Unlikely. Even if Scott could lead the Lakers to the playoffs as a 7or 8 seed, they would get pummeled in the first round. Long-term, that does not solve anything for the Lakers.
This was the time for the Lakers to take a chance on an unproven coach. Hire a coach with little to no NBA head coaching experience, and let him show what he can do. Let him be innovative. Let him grow and develop along with the team while they rebuild. When they are finally ready to compete for championships again, they’ll have a coach who learned how to coach. Or they could decide to hire a more experienced coach if the unproven coach didn’t pan out.
Having an unproven head coach would have been a win-win situation. Yes, the Lakers would have no idea what they would be getting. They would either be egregiously bad and keep their top-5 protected pick that would otherwise go to Phoenix, or they would have discovered a solid young coach. Nothing to lose.
The Lakers wanted to be safe. They wanted to go with the known commodity. They wanted to please the fans. They wanted to sell tickets. They wanted to go with the retread coach who had been fired from his last three head coaching jobs. You know what you’re going to get with Byron Scott. He’s going to stress defense, run a stagnant offense and fold his arms on the sidelines. As an NBA team, the last thing you want to do is be mediocre. You want to be fighting for a chance to be playing basketball in June, or fighting for more ping-pong balls in June.
Other than Byron Scott winning Coach of the Year in 2008, taking the Nets to the NBA Finals in back to back years, and playing for the Lakers, I cannot be sold on Byron Scott being a good coach for a championship team or a good coach for a team in rebuilding mode. If he was a good coach, why was it that no other team besides the Lakers were calling him about their open coaching positions? A mediocre head coach isn’t going to win you an NBA championship. Scott has been nothing but mediocre for the past five years.
Maybe Byron Scott will feel some sort of extra motivation to do a great job since he’s back in Los Angeles. After all, he did spend most of his playing career here. As a fan of the Lakers, I really do hope that Byron Scott is awesome and proves me wrong. I want him to succeed. I just do not understand why they hired him. I would love it if this team turned out to be great under Byron Scott. Unlike the last two Laker coaches, Byron Scott actually seems likable guy who genuinely cares about the Laker brand. I just don’t think that he is the man for this job, not for a team that plans on playing for championships in a few years. I sincerely hope that Byron Scott serves me up a huge plate of crow.